Barack Obama's political strength worries U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow. No, the House GOP Conference chairman and third highest ranking Republican in the House doesn't think Obama will win Florida's 27 electoral votes, but he thinks Obama's ability to turn out African-Americans and other strong supporters could make a real difference in some congressional districts, particularly in the South.
"I think you'll see House members who won their last race by 60-65 percent lose because of the turnout model that Obama brings," predicted Putnam.
He wasn't talking about Florida seats, but in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, Putnam pointed to what he sees as the five most vulnerable congressional incumbents in Florida: Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, Republicans Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart in the Miami area, and Republicans Tom Feeney and Ric Keller in the Orlando area.
Putnam, a big Fred Thompson supporter back in the day, also named three strong vice presidential picks for John McCain: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. No mention of fellow Tampa Bay Republican Charlie Crist.
The interview airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.
Obama gets Fla. talent
Stephanie Owens was introduced to Florida and Tampa Bay back in 1997. Al Gore and then-U.S Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros dispatched her to St. Petersburg in the aftermath of racial disturbances to oversee federal promises to help fix generations of racial and poverty problems, a thankless job where she still earned lots of respect.
She ended up getting married and settling, working lately for the Super Bowl host committee. Now Owens has been tapped for another tough gig: Obama's political director, a job that requires her to get lots of people to do free work and say no to a lot of people who have their own ideas about the campaign in Florida.
In a state where Democratic presidential campaigns often rely heavily on out-of-state political talent, Obama is tapping lots of people with actual Florida experience. Former state House campaign director Steve Schale is leading the Florida campaign, South Florida campaign manager Ashley Walker is No. 2; former state Democratic Party communications director Mark Bubriski is now Obama's top press guy in Florida, and former state party field director Jackie Lee is leading the coordinated campaign between the Obama campaign and state party.
Campbell finally pulls out of Senate race
Skip Campbell has finally pulled the plug on his state Senate campaign, ending a bid that worried the GOP mightily but fizzled out amid accusations from his own party that he was not taking it seriously. The 59-year-old trial lawyer cited hip surgery as one the of the reasons. He said he waited so long to get out because party officials wanted to first find a replacement. Enter Broward County Democratic activist Linda Bird, who now has an uphill challenge against incumbent Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, the Senate-president designate.
McCain to visit Tampa Bay, Obama a maybe
McCain is to return to Florida on Aug. 1 to address the conference of the National Urban League in Orlando. Obama also was invited but has not confirmed if he will attend.
Crist gets a blast from the right
Panama City talk radio host Burnie Thompson had a Washington Times column imploring McCain not to tap Crist for veep: "In less than 18 months, Mr. Crist has socialized Florida's insurance market, hamstrung businesses with climate regulations, invigorated trial lawyers, and launched costly public-works projects to stimulate the economy."
Ouch. Guess Thompson would also disapprove of Crist as attorney general or interior secretary.
Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet and contributed to this week's Buzz.